Mal turns to walk away from the Operative, and you can hear the tearful voice of the long-dead scientist talking about Miranda. The scene is quiet, vivid, and heavy with emotion from all the death and sacrifice thus far, and we know that River may also be dead too, having been dragged away by the Reavers. Then, we cut to a Reaver's head rising up, snarling. It turns, and a fist comes out of nowhere, smashing into it, and the camera pans over to River. Then as the camera pulls out, we see she's not only still alive, is not only still fighting, is not only holding her own, but iscompletely obliterating every Reaverlike they're uppity toddlers, complete with a rising triumphant soundtrack that confirms that yes, the good guys won.Holy crap.
The most vividly beautiful moment of the entire battle is when the doors rumble open, to show River standing completely uninjured, Atop a Mountain of Corpses, blood dripping from her weapons. That's when you know exactly what they meant by "living weapon." In an sense, the Operative saved the incoming Alliance soldiers' lives, not River.
What is even more awesome about this moment is the fact that this happens right after Mal asks about River. Before Zoe can say "She's dead, sir..." the doors open to show her and that absolutely terrifying look on her face...
Hell, five people, three of whom hadn't even shot someone before, holding off so many of the so-called terrors of the 'verse for as long as they did? That's awesome in its own right.
Which brings us to Kaylee's line of "To hell with this. I'm gonna live."
In a less spectacular but no less awesome instance, River wakes up and realizes what Miranda is. She finds herself still handcuffed to the floor, and gets a look on her face that simply says, "You know, I don't want to be handcuffed anymore." She then proceeds to escape, ambush Jayne from the ceiling and knock him out without trying, dodges the rest of the crew as they try to find her, and when Mal finally catches up with her, holds him at gunpoint without even looking at him.
The Operative's introduction. Coming off as a nice, reasonable, perfectly understandable fellow, and then casually killing the head doctor of the Academy and praising him for his good work even as he's impaled on his sword.
Would you be killed in your sleep like an ailing pet? ....This is a good death. There is no shame in this, a man's death, a man who has done fine works.
Prior to that:
The Operative: You know, in certain...older...civilizations, men who had failed as entirely as you have would throw themselves on their swords. Doctor: Well, I forgot to bring a sword. The Operative: (draws his sword)
The Operative, for all his villainy, is pretty much a walking CMOA. The buildup to the fight between him and Mal at Inara's training house is one great example -
The Operative: I want to resolve this like civilized men. I'm not threatening you. I'm unarmed - Mal: Good. [Shoots The Operative in the chest, sending him flying off his chair; Mal and Inara turn and begin to leave. The Operative, out of nowhere, grabs Mal and stops him.] The Operative: I am, of course, wearing full body armor! I am not a moron!
The Operative: I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there, any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.
The Operative gets one more at the end of the movie, when he fully realizes just what his utopia would mean.
Stand down. Stand down. It's finished... We're finished.
"There is nothing left to see." The only way that line could have been more quietly awesome would be for Mal to turn around and find that the Operative had disappeared.
A deleted scene took this one further and almost made it to Tear Jerker territories. In the scene, the Operative asks Mal how he went on after losing everything at Serenity Valley. While Mal didn't kill him, he completely destroyed him.
And Mal's scene when he's plotting to disguise Serenity as a Reaver ship, and browbeats the entire crew into submission when they all object at the same time.
So I hear a word outta any of you that ain't helpin' me out or takin' your leave, I will shoot you down. Get to work.
That scene is even more awesome in the light of his previous promise to Inara. "Trust me. If I start fighting a war, you're gonna see something new."
And judging from River's expression as Mal walks away, she's "seeing" something new as well...
Side note: in the original shooting script, the line wasn't "I will shoot you down", it was "I will fucking shoot you". Decide for yourself which is more CMOA.
"They'll see us coming." "No. They won't see this coming."
"I aim to misbehave."
The Operative draws his sword, as Mal pulls a random tool from a nearby toolbox to counter-attack. They get ready to strike, and Mal, the Operative, and the audience realize at the same time that his weapon is a screwdriver. Which he eventually uses to stab the Operative in the leg, then pull the Operative toward him with it for a follow-up punch.
The Operative: Do you know what your sin is, Mal? Mal: Aw, hell. I'm a fan of all seven. (headbutts the Operative) Mal: But right now I'm gonna have to go with wrath.
Their first confrontation was also awesome, especially the whole albatross debate.
Mal(to Inara): Yes, I've read a poem. Try not to faint.
What about the bit when the Operative asks Mal if he's prepared to die for his beliefs, and Mal says 'I am,' quick draws, pushes him back with 6 shots and then calmly says, "'Course, that ain't exactly plan A."
Mal: ....you shot me in the back! I haven't made you angry, have I? The Operative: There's lots of innocent people getting killed up there... Mal: You don't know how true that is.
Inara: Please! Spend an hour with him.
Is nobody going to mention Mal's moved nerve cluster?
Not so much, as it was a pretty fine stroke of luck.
Since when is good luck not awesome? Thank you, shrapnel. Incidentally, if I ever have the opportunity to get cybernetic modifications, moved or armored nerve clusters will be one of the first things on my list.
It works, because it pretty perfectly encapsulates the Order Versus Chaos nature of their fight. The Operative's entire M.O. depends on full understanding of the parameters of the fight and the limits of the combatants. But full understanding of an inherently chaotic system is impossible; sooner or later, you hit the limit of the possible. And then you get choke-smacked.
The Operative made that mistake because he was lazy on what turned out to be a critical item: He never read the complete medical dossier on Mal that was included with the rest of the background information about everyone on the ship. It's easy to miss, but when he's given the packet it's specifically mentioned as being included.
Well that would make the operative's sin pride, wouldn't it?
And then Mal shows The Operative that he hasn't been so much immobilized by a quick elbow to the throat and then disclocating both his shoulders in the space of about two seconds. Then goes on to show him exactly what "A world without sin" is about.
Wash: "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar."
When the crew landed safely near the ending, everything seemed all right... aaaaaaand then Wash got impaled by a spike. His last act, saving the crew from the Reavers and the Alliance. The crew then responds with their own CMOA and take on the Reavers.
Book gets his own (offscreen) moment of awesome when he shoots down the Alliance ship that destroyed Haven.
And then there's the Oh, Crap moment when Serenity bursts out of the ion cloud with a hundred Reaver ships chasing it straight into the Alliance fleet.
Also a stand-up-in-your-seat-and-cheer moment as you realize what Mal's plan had been all along. And the priceless look on the Operative's face...
For those who want to know just how legendary it is, might I direct your attention to this little beauty◊ presented ever-so-correctly by the Oh, Crap page?
Made even better by his line, which starts off calm but very quickly devolves into panic:
Operative: Target the Reavers. Target the Reavers! Target everyone, somebody fire!
Inara's little trick with the incense:
Operative: You are fooling yourself, Captain. Nothing here is what it seems. You are not the plucky hero, the Alliance is not an evil empire, and this is not the grand arena. Inara: And that's not incense. [flashbang disguised as incense goes off]
Jayne: "Shiny. Let's be bad guys."
A very simple exchange:
Mal: Listen up! We're coming down to empty that vault! Guard: You'll have to give me your authorization passcode! Jayne: * fires a quick burst of gunfire down the stairs* Guard: ....okay!
The moment after Jayne comes running into the vault, telling them that Reavers are about to attack.
Mal:(to Zoe and Jayne) Get on the mule! (to guard) Does that— does that lock from the inside? Guard: Uh, yes— Mal: Get everyone upstairs you get them down here and you seal it. As long as you got air, you don't open up, you understand? Guard: I— but— I— Mal:Get them inside the vault!
Made even better by the news report in the background in a later scene that the only survivors of a Reaver attack were a group of people who locked themselves inside a bank vault.
The dialog following River single-handedly beating up everyone in the bar then passing out:
Fanty: Do you know that girl? Mal: I really don't.
While there's no arguing that he got KTFO'd where he stood and that it was hilarious, Jayne was the only guy in the whole damn bar who managed to sneak up on River and actually get a decent shot at subduing her. Which is pretty damn awesome, when you think about it.
Also, Jayne has the drop on River and has a reasonable chance of killing or disabling her, even without a gun, but when push comes to shove, he tries to restrain her unharmed.
Mal's landing announcement at the beginning, as the ship is hurtling toward the ground:
Mal: This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then...explode.
"Gosh, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, dontcha think?"
Jayne, "Shepherd Book once told me, 'If you can't do something smart, do something right'."
The above line is made even more awesome by incorporating a silent Crowning Momentof Heartwarming, as Jayne slides the booze-bottle to Simon – who accepts it and takes a drink. It takes a lot for those two to bury the hatchet, but Miranda definitely qualifies.
It seems like the entire 'Verse is encapsulated in the following rant. Remember, you keep pushing people, eventually people willpushback!
Mal: There's a lot of fine ways to die. I ain't waiting for the Alliance to choose mine! [Shoots Alliance soldier crawling from wreckage]
It may not be awesome, but it's damn scary watching Mr. "You'll be awake, facing me and armed" shooting an Alliance pilot that's trying to surrender without batting an eye. Ye gods, Mal is pissed.
Nathan Fillion gets one himself. In Mal's final battle with The Operative, instead of faking his face hitting the glass floor, Nathan Fillion actually slammed his face against it every single take.
Joss Whedon even halted filming for half-an-hour to give the swelling on Nathan's cheek time to go down.
Can there be an understated CMoA? I think there can. "I'm gonna show you a world without sin."
Piss off Mal and he'll kill you. Make him really angry and he'll leave you wishing that he did.
Simon decking Mal after the opening heist anyone?
Though it is also a Tear Jerker, River telling Simon to kill her is a sign of just how much she cares about them. Its a moment that really defines her: she would rather die than be a threat to the others, either directly through her insanity or indirectly through the Operative. That she's willing to die for the rest of the crew is incredibly unselfish.
River: Put a bullet to me! Bullet in the brainpan, squish! (Mixture of Laughing and Crying accompanied by a short flash of her imagining it happening).
That this movie even exists is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the fans. "We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."
As Firefly shows, Simon is a crap actor... if he has to do it on the spot. The opening rescue in Serenity showed just how well he could act when he had prep time. He is absolutely convincing, even intimidating, acting like an Alliance inspector. Then he tops even that CMoA when he pulls off the rescue.
It helps that this time he knew exactly what his 'motivation' was.
Also, he was impersonating a doctor, which he already is.
Kaylee gets a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Funny, and Heartwarming all in one with this exchange:
Simon: In all that time on the ship... I've always regretted... not being with you. Kaylee: With me? You mean to say... as in sex? Simon (flustered):I... mean to say. Kaylee: [Dramatic Gun Cock] To Hell with this. I'm gonna live!
The title sequence of the film, after the disturbing intro. The Serenity logo fades into view, and the camera pulls back from it to show the ship herself drifting lazily through space, backed by almost mournful-sounding music. It quickly swells into a plucky, upbeat tune as the ship roars down through the atmosphere of a planet as we Jitter Cam along its length to the front to see into the cockpit. And then a piece of the hulltears off because this is still Firefly.
Mal: What was that?
The fight scene that River has in the bar is a meta one for Summer Glau. On top of her prior experience as a dancer, she managed to apparently do every single take faster than the previous one, even after having done multiple takes.